Friday, February 29, 2008

More Shameless Cuteness





The squirrels in Manhattan's City Hall Park (yes, the same park that's infested with rats) have gotten cozy new homes! Read more here. I think that's enough cuteness for one day.

Controversy!





Okay, so lots of people aren't fans of dog-eating snakes. Good to know. While I still claim that the story contained nothing that you wouldn't see on the pages of National Geographic, I promise not to post again on the subject. (By the way, the video doesn't show anything other than the snake in question. It's not even very interesting.) However, I cannot promise that I will never offend anyone. This blog is dedicated to the bizarre and unusual, and there may be some "unsettling" information here and there. That will mean different things for different people, of course. But if a post comes with a warning, I urge you to take it seriously.

So, now it's time to move on. For those of you who didn't like the last post, I offer these charming little albino monkeys. And if you feel the need for a double dose of cute, here's a story about a monkey wedding that took place in India earlier this month. (No snakes were involved. I promise.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Horrible Python Related News!





DO NOT click this link if you are squeamish, prone to nightmares, or extremely fond of dogs. Consider yourself warned!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Watch Out California!





(Above: It was heading straight for you!)

From the San Francisco Gate:

"In addition to everything else to worry about, now comes the Burmese python. The giant snakes are slithering from Florida toward the [San Francisco] Bay Area, very slowly to be sure, but inexorably. And they can strangle and eat an entire alligator . . . "

Along the way, they'll snack on beavers. "Beavers would be a very tasty treat for them," says zoologist Gordon Rodda. "No beaver would be safe from a python."

Read more here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

My All Time Favorite Cartoon!





Cryptomundo just posted the The Abominable Snow Rabbit! I will love it and watch it and share it with all of my friends.

So What's for Lunch?





Find out here.

Obay!





Strange ads have begun popping up on bus shelters around Toronto. At first glance, they appear to be for a new mind-control drug that's designed to turn teenagers into docile, law-abiding, parent-obeying zombies.

Of course, the campaign is a hilarious spoof. But who's behind it? The people at the Torontoist blog did a little detective work and revealed the culprits' identity. Check out their post--along with additional pictures and a couple of Obay radio ads here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Week in Bizarre





Have visits from UFOs left three Peruvian lagoons with strange healing powers?

Famous toy store FAO Schwarz now lets you make your own monster. Perhaps somethings are better left to professionals?

Could you sleep a night at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast?

Inside a former bank vault under a high-rise building in Tokyo lies a subterranean farm.

A Norwegian boy used his videogame skills to fend off a moose attack.

Technology at it's best: lickable ads.

(Artwork by Marlene Haring.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Manhattan of the Desert





Continuing with the skyscraper theme, I thought it would be a good time to write a little post about a city named Shibam in the country of Yemen. (Shown above.) Known as the Manhattan of the Desert, the town features hundreds of mud brick "tower houses," which can reach up to nine stories tall.

Not impressed? Well consider this. Manhattan's first skyscraper (the famous Flatiron Building) was built in 1902. At the time, it was considered an architectural marvel. No one had seen anything like it before.

Except, perhaps for the people of Yemen. You see, the skyscrapers of Shibam were built FOUR HUNDRED years before the Flatiron Building.


Nikolai Sutyagin's Skyscraper





What do you get when you combine a wacky Russian gangster, a small fortune, and A LOT of wood? You get the world's largest wooden skyscraper, of course.

Nikolai Sutyagin began building his pleasure palace by hand in 1992. Originally meant to be two stories tall, it eventually grew to include over thirteen floors. Neighbors in the town of Archangelsk now worry that the bizarre tower could one day crash down around them. Many are demanding that the structure be demolished.

Fortunately, there are others (like me) who see the skyscraper as a wonderful work of art and a monument to one man's crazy dreams.

Read more here.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Has the World's Most Famous Lost Treasure Been Found?





Of all the world’s lost treasures, the Amber Room is among the most famous. A chamber constructed completely out of amber and gold leaf, it was so stunningly beautiful that it was long known as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Finished in 1709, it graced the palace of the King of Prussia until he presented it as a gift to Russian Tsar Peter the Great in 1716. It remained in Russia for over two hundred years. And then it disappeared.

When the Nazis invaded Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1941, the Soviets tried to hide their famous treasure by covering it with a layer of dull wallpaper. The Nazis, however, were not easily fooled. It took them a mere 36 hours to take the Amber Room apart, pack it into crates, and load it onto trains bound for the German city of Konigsberg.

When the war was over in 1945, the Soviets tried to reclaim the Amber Room. But the Eighth Wonder of the World was never seen again.

Over past sixty years, there have been countless rumors regarding the whereabouts of the Amber Room. Some say it was destroyed in the bombing of Konigsberg. Others claim that it was buried somewhere in the Ore Mountains or perished on a submarine that sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

But now, German treasure hunters say that they’ve discovered a forgotten underground cavern filled with Nazi gold. And they’re certain that the Amber Room is also hidden inside. Opening the cavern will be tricky, since the Nazis were known to booby-trap their treasures with explosives. So we may have to wait until Easter to know for sure if the Eighth Wonder of the World has finally been recovered.

Read more here.

(Below: Catherine Palace, home of the Amber Room)


Something's in the Sewers





Imagine you've been hired at the water treatment plant in Eastbourne, East Sussex in the United Kingdom. Your job requires descending into the city sewers each day. The tunnels below the streets are dark and dangerous, and it's easy to lose your way.

Now imagine that you're going about your business one evening when you begin to sense that you're being followed. As far as you know, you're alone down there. But you hear the distinct sound of footsteps splashing through the water that trickles through the tunnels. You catch a glimpse of a figure slipping around a corner. You may even hear the sound of voices echoing in the distance.

This isn't fiction. Many of the water treatment plant's workers claim they're being "stalked" by a "humanoid figure" that follows them through the tunnels. They've even called in an expert in the paranormal to investigate. Until he comes up with a logical explanation, I think I'd take a little time off.

Read more here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Greatest Game of All Time





I couldn't possibly improve on the description of Gloom provided by it's makers. Enjoy . . .

"The world of Gloom is a sad and benighted place. The sky is gray, the tea is cold, and a new tragedy lies around every corner. Debt, disease, heartache, and packs of rabid flesh-eating mice -- just when it seems like things can't get any worse, they do.

In the Gloom card game, you assume control of the fate of an eccentric family of misfits and misanthropes. The goal of the game is sad, but simple: you want your characters to suffer the greatest tragedies possible before passing on to the well-deserved respite of death. You'll play horrible mishaps like Pursued by Poodles or Mocked by Midgets on your own characters to lower their Self-Worth scores, while trying to cheer your opponents' characters with marriages and other happy occasions that pile on positive points. The player with the lowest total Family Value wins. "

Giant Vampire Sea Spiders





Watching this CNN video took me on an emotional rollercoaster ride. My first response when I saw the title was, "WOW! GIANT SEA SPIDERS!" Then, as I watched it I realized, to my dismay, that the creatures filmed near Antactica . . .

A) weren't all that giant and
B) didn't really look like spiders.

But then I did a little research on Wikipedia and discovered that many sea spiders actually do resemble their land-lubbing cousins. (Especially dead sea spiders.) This makes them fairly interesting in my book. However, they also possess an unusual, vampire-like feature: a straw shaped proboscis which they insert into the animals before sucking out the juices. Yum! Read more here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dine . . . and Die!





Trifter has posted a wonderful list of the seven deadliest delicacies. Some (such as fugu, shown above) have already earned posts on this blog. But some may come as splendid surprises!

My favorite? The delectable "San Nak Ji" . . .

"San Nak Ji or live octopus is a popular delicacy in Korea and Japan. The enjoyment of eating this food is when the octopus is still moving with the tentacles sticking to the roof of the mouth. The challenge is to munch and swallow the live octopus without choking. It is reported that there are on average of 6 deaths due to choking (on live octopus), each year in South Korea."

The entire list, plus videos and pictures can be found here!

Happy Presidents' Day





It's a wonderful holiday that celebrates the birthdays of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Kirsten Miller! Out of respect for these three great figures in American history, there's no mail service, federal offices are closed, and you can buy a sofa for no money down!

(Photo by Ruth Fremson for the New York Times.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Lost Postcard Rescue Department





Not long ago, people around the country began receiving unusual postcards. Each had been written by a friend or family member of the recipient. The only problem? Many of the people who'd penned the notes had been dead for decades.

A little detective work determined that the cards had not been sent from beyond the grave. Instead, each had been mailed decades earlier, only to be lost by the postal service. When they finally arrived at their destination, they were enclosed in a plain envelope that bore a one-line return address: The Lost Postcard Rescue Department.

But here's the kicker. According to the US Postal Service, there's no such thing as The Lost Postcard Rescue Department. Not only that, but in the intervening years, several of the recipients' names and addresses had changed.

Who is behind the mysterious LPRD? I have only one theory . . .




(The first person to figure this out gets a free t-shirt.)

The Miracle Fruit





(No they're not beans.) Believe it or not, the little red berries shown above have a remarkable power. They can trick the taste buds like nothing else. Just chew on a miracle fruit for a couple of minutes, and lemons will taste like lemonade. Limes will be better than candy. Even blue cheese will turn into a delicious treat. That's because the berries can make all sour foods taste sweet.

It's been used for centuries in Africa, where people like to eat them before taking bitter medicines. In Japan, dieters like them because they make even low-calorie foods taste like dessert. They're hard to come by in the US, (for years they were banned here), but now you can order them by mail. I'm thinking of trying them out!

Read more here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Technology Is Being Turned Against You!





Almost two years ago, I wrote a post about a new device called the Mosquito. Believe it or not, it's a gizmo that was specially designed to produce sounds that only young people can hear. Back then, some were concerned that teens might use the technology to their advantage by smuggling cell phones into their classrooms.

But now the Mosquito has been adopted by the forces of evil! (Or just cranky older people.) Shopping centers in Britain are using the device to keep gangs of teenagers from congregating. They've programmed the Mosquito to emit "an irritating but harmless high-pitched ringing sound at a frequency which is audible to children and teenagers, but which most people lose the ability to hear in their early 20s."

It's a Reverse Pied Piper for teens!

Granted, I wouldn't want to spend too much time around the guys shown in this article. (Particularly the one making the charming hand gesture.) But the Mosquito doesn't just annoy jerks. It can be heard by ANYONE under the age of 20.

Now that doesn't seem fair, does it?

Illustration by Damien Mason.

Everyone Deserves a Nap!






What genius scheduled school during naptime, anyway? Now there's a way to catch up on your beauty sleep without attracting unwanted attention. Simply peel off two of the handy stickers shown above and stick them to your eyelids. No one will know the difference! (Unless you have blue eyes, in which case you may be out of luck.)

If a sharp-eyed teacher happens to catch you, simply refer him/her to this article from the teen-friendly New York Times.

Iris McLeod

For those of you who can't remember what Iris looks like, here are two descriptions from the books . . .

From Kiki Strike:

"The door shut behind us, and a girl wearing pink pajamas embroidered with ladybugs stepped forward to greet us. She was almost as small as Kiki had been when I first met her, with hair only a shade or two darker. In fact, her resemblance to the young Kiki Strike might have been uncanny if it hadn't been for her healthy complexion and hazel eyes."

From The Empress's Tomb:

" . . . the door flew open, revealing a tiny blonde girl in an oversized white coat. . . . Like Kiki, Iris was unusually small for her age. Unlike Kiki, she possessed a set of cherubic cheeks that were often pinched by strangers who mistook her for an eight-year-old."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull



I am so excited!! I don't know if I'll be able to wait until May. The Indiana Jones movies are my favorite films of all time. They bring together everything I love most: archaeology, adventure, and butt-kicking. I own all the DVDs, and I watch them whenever I need a little inspiration.

Happy Valentine's Day



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ananka's Diary TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY CONTEST





OK, here's the deal. . . . If you can't email them, send your "portraits" of Iris McLeod to the following address:

Kirsten Miller
511 Avenue of the Americas #259
New York, NY 10011

The winner will receive a special prize package--including the very first t-shirt featuring a brand new design! Black, with a golden Irregulars logo, it's ideal for slipping through shadows or disappearing into the night.

Only a few of these shirts will ever be made. And they will NEVER be for sale.

(Oh, and they come in styles tailored for females AND males.)

GOOD LUCK!!!

The Ghost Stag





A rare white stag was recently filmed in the Scottish Highlands, sailing across the moors like a ghost.

In Britain, white stags were once believed to be magical beings. (Similar in many ways to unicorns.) The ancient Celts thought they were messengers from the underworld. In the tales of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table were always chasing after the mysterious stags, though even Arthur himself proved unable to capture the prize. But perhaps the strangest legend to feature a white deer is that of Herne the Hunter.

Unfortunately, white stags are a favorite of poachers. The last one spotted in Britain was killed in 2006. So for now, the location of the latest creature will have to remain a well-kept secret.

For more information and a video, click here and here.

Prehistoric Cute!





Paleontologists recently discovered the fossil of a mini-pterodactyl in China. The size of a modern sparrow, its wingspan was only 10 inches! How cool would it be to keep a few of those little monsters in a birdcage?

Read more (and see more pictures here.)

PS: There will be an update on the contest later today!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Red Rain of Kerala





When most people think of aliens, they imagine super-intelligent grey-skinned humanoids or slimy, multi-tentacled beasts. But what if Earth has been repeatedly visited by extraterrestrials no larger than a single cell? That's what some believe happened in India between July 25th and September 23rd, 2001.

It was during that time that the Indian state of Kerala experienced an unusual phenomenon. The annual monsoon rains turned red--blood red. Clothes were stained, puddles turned scarlet, and people were frightened. It wasn't long afterwards that scientists set out to study the bizarre liquid.

Of course the Kerala red rain wasn't the first time strange things have fallen from the sky. There have been well-documented accounts of frogs, fish, and birds raining down from the heavens. Such events, while unusual, have a logical explanation. At first, many assumed that a similarly simple explanation could be found for the red rain. Perhaps an Arabian dust storm had been sucked into the clouds and deposited over India. But then they put the liquid under a microscope.

The particles that had turned the rain red didn't resemble dust. They looked like living cells. Most mainstream scientists eventually concluded that they were spores or algae. Others, however, claimed that the "cells" came from outer space.

Not long before the first red rain, residents of Kerala reported a loud boom and a bright flash of light. These reports led a few scientists to speculate that a comet entered the Earth's atmosphere that day, carrying the red particles. When the comet disintegrated, the red extraterrestrial particles became trapped in the clouds and later rained down on Kerala.

So were the red "cells" the first evidence that Earth has been visited by alien life forms? Read more here, and decide for yourself!

(Below: Could these be aliens?)


Pablo Escobar's Hippos



During the 1980s, Pablo Escobar was one of the most feared men in the world. From his luxurious hacienda in the South American country of Columbia, he controlled the MedellĂ­n Cartel, a world-wide drug network. By 1989, he was estimated to be the tenth richest man in the world.

So what does one buy with that kind of ill-gotten cash? Apparently, one buys . . . hippos. The video below is one of the strangest things I've ever seen. Who would have guessed that a hardened drug lord would want a miniature "Jurassic Park" constructed on his estate? Or that he would import African hippos to frolic in his ponds?

Today, Escobar's hacienda is nothing but a ruin. But the hippos are still there--and they've multiplied. They're on the brink of taking over neighboring rivers, and no one is sure how to stop them.

Enjoy . . .

Friday, February 8, 2008

Welcome to the Animal Kingdom!








Scientists keep finding new creatures! Say hello to the black uakari monkey and the giant elephant shrew, both recently discovered. Somehow, they don't look as though they really wanted to be found.

I forgot to say thanks to Mae for introducing me to the giant elephant shrew. How rude of me! Thanks, Mae!

Cloud City








A recent design competition asked architects and city planners to develop housing that could shelter New Yorkers in the wake of a natural disaster. (Why is it ALWAYS New York that gets destroyed? WHY?)

The architects at Studio Lindfors devised a wonderful solution--blimp houses. But why wait for a disaster? Sign me up for one of those now! (Though I'm not sure how you're supposed to get in or out.)

Read more here.

The Plain of (Giant) Jars





One of the world's most mysterious archaeological sites lies in the mountains of northern Laos in South East Asia. There, thousands of enormous stone jars line a long, straight path though the highlands. Some of the jars weigh more than 13 tons and are covered with disc-shaped lids. A few are filled with tiny statues of Buddha. Those who’ve come across the rows of huge, empty vessels sitting miles from any human habitation have found the site quite spooky.

The jars, which are estimated to be 1,500 to 2,000 years old, are thought to have been the work of the ancient Mon-Khmer race. Other than that, very little is known about them. Laotian legends tell of giants who once roamed the Xieng Khouang plain, but archaeologists (who don’t usually believe in giants) claim that the jars may once have been funeral urns.

Sadly, the Plain of Jars is also one of the most dangerous places in the world. During the Vietnam War, the US bombarded Laos, and the country's highlands are still littered with unexploded bombs.

Read more here. And see more pictures here.



Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Happy Year of the Rat!





Tomorrow marks the start of the Chinese (Lunar) New Year! Firecrackers for everyone!

Mmm. Rats. Delicious.

And they make excellent pets, too!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Celebrate Two Years of Ananka's Diary with FABULOUS PRIZES!





You may have noticed that the TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY of Ananka's Diary is quickly approaching! I've been trying to come up with an exciting contest to celebrate. Just when I thought my brain had turned to mush, it finally came to me!

Every week, I receive at least one note containing the same question: Why isn't there a picture of Iris on the website? It was a tragic oversight, I'm afraid, and now that she's officially an Irregular, it's time to commission a portrait.

Which is where you guys come in! Whoever creates the best portrait of Iris McLeod will be named winner of the TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY CONTEST!

Don't think you're out of the running if you can't draw. The portrait can be an illustration, collage, photograph, paper mache sculpture, or anything else you can come up with. Photograph it or scan it and send it to kikistrike@gmail.com by MARCH 4, 2008. (I'll also post a physical address for those of you who don't have a scanner.)

Three finalists will be selected, and the winner will be chosen by the readers of this blog.

So enter now! FABULOUS PRIZES await you!

(Painting by Mark Ryden)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Lego New York City





See more of Sean Kenney's amazing Lego artwork here!

Today's Acquired Taste





Ika Tokkuri (shown above) are handmade sake bottles made out of dried squid skin. When warm sake is poured into the containers, the taste of squid infuses the liquid, giving it a smooth, mild taste.

Sounds fishy to me. More here.

The Bloop





In 1997, a US Navy underwater microphone detected an unusual noise emanating from the ocean's depths and tracked it to a location near the southwest coast of South America. Though the Navy's sensors had been designed to capture the distinctive sounds of enemy submarines, this noise was clearly NOT man-made.

Nicknamed "The Bloop," the noise is similar in some respects to whale calls. But scientists who've listened to the Navy's recordings agree that "it is far more powerful than the calls made by any creature known on Earth." In other words, whatever is making the noise is far bigger than the largest whale. Far bigger than any animal known to mankind.

Some have suggested that giant squid might be responsible, but that theory has been rejected by the scientists who know the cuddly cephalopods best. In the ten years since The Bloop was first heard, we've learned little about its origins. All we know is that there may be enormous beasts lurking at the bottom of Earth's oceans, patiently waiting to make our acquaintance.

Read more here.

Photo via National Geographic.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Frozen Grand Central





Improv Everywhere is a New York-based group that's dedicated to causing "scenes of chaos and joy in public places." Since 2001, they've successfully executed more than 70 missions, including the annual "No Pants Subway Ride," during which hundreds of New Yorkers ride public transportation--without pants.

Their most recent mission was "Frozen Grand Central," which took place in Manhattan's fabled Grand Central Station. I'd tell you all about it, but it will be much more fun if you just watch the video below . . .

(And big thanks to SameAnonymous for reminding me about IE!)


Is This a Face You Can Trust?





Above: Weather forecaster or evil genius?

I think not! I, for one, have never bought into this whole Groundhog Day business. According to my research, groundhogs (alias: "woodchucks") are actually enormous squirrels--and therefore not to be trusted. When they're not spending time in the company of weathermen and meteorologists (two of the shiftiest, most perfidious types around), they're huddled away underground, cooking up evil schemes.

So when America's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, emerged from his burrow today and "claimed" to see his shadow, I refused to believe his prediction of six more weeks of winter. In fact, I sense a conspiracy. Who is that man in the top hat, what do we really know about him, and how did he learn how to speak groundhogese?

Besides, why would I listen to some overgrown rodent from Pennsylvania when New York City supposedly has it's own weather-predicting groundhog? His name is Staten Island Chuck, and he appears to keep a very low profile. But I know one thing--he wouldn't risk his reputation predicting six more weeks of winter when New York City hasn't seen a speck of snow this season!

UPDATE: I just saw the local news. Staten Island Chuck DID NOT see his shadow! And according to the Staten Island Zoo, he's the most accurate groundhog in the country!